Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Numerology

I know. I know. I know. Yes, from September 2013 to now is eleven, not ten years. Which doesn't make it any the sadder.

I blame my first maths teacher at big school, Miss Cowie, (cowie by name, cowie by nature), who was absolutely ruthless and terrifying and the most unbelievable snob to boot. 'Well we all know about Leslie and her North London ways', I remember her declaring, leaving Leslie withered and me, a South London child, mystified. To this day, (while never doubting for one moment that, in Miss Cowie's view, they were beyond the pale), I wonder what exactly North London ways were/are and whether perhaps, unwittingly, I too now exhibit some of them, perish the thort.

Really though, I should blame the Chelsea Froebel School, a realm where mathematics consisted of rote learning of times tables, many happy hours with the beautiful but ultimately unenlightening Cuisenaire rods, interpolated with the very rare days when the inspector came round. On those occasions, glass vessels of all sizes would be produced, newspaper would be spread out on all the tables and we would spend a wildly fun time splashing each other while pretending to penetrate the mysteries of the gill measurement, (now there was a useful way to spend one's time; how often I've had recourse to my familiarity with one-third of a gill glass jars; indeed, one might even ask where I would be today without such a solid foundation in the science of liquid volume; on the other hand, one might not.

10 comments:

  1. Not for approval: you mean 2003, not 2013.

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    1. I think I'll leave the mistake, and your comment, in as the mistake really rather proves my point about being lousy at maths, don't you think?

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  2. In an American context, gill measurement sounds useful chiefly to icthyologists. At least, I've never seen a recipe specify anything in gills. Memorizing times tables sounds very useful if tedious.

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    1. I worked at Gordon's Gin briefly, (long story), and I seem to remember that gill measures were integral to the work - constantly having to be replaced in pubs all over England. Heaven knows what happened when the EU decreed that metric measurements must rule the day

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  3. Mrs Godley was my 1st Piano Teacher! Memories of the fish cakes & processed peas in the basement Dining Room! But what was the Headmistress' name? I recall sir Charles who used to drive us to Battersea Park for Games in the minibus until the police stopped him after he jumped a red light!

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    1. Poor Sir Charles - he blended in my mind with Harold Macmillan, Alec Douglas Home and my dad. The world seemed to be ruled by apparently benign ageing men. None of them was benign probably - except perhaps Sir Charles. His wife's name was Lady Daphne Edwards and after he died she went on a cruise and brought back photographs she showed us of herself at the captain's table dispaying what my 8-year-old self regarded as rather startling decolletage. Thank you for reminding me about the fish cakes and those horrible peas. Despite the peas, I think it was an exceptionally nice place (while I reiterate that it was by no means the ideal place to embark if you were planning a career in maths or science). Do you think it was nicer than other primary schools or is that just a kind of Stockholm Syndrome illusion that I have?

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  4. Sir Charles drove the school can that picked us up for school and dropped us off again. His wife, the head, was Lady Edwards. I remember a teacher Mrs. Wheeler and much else. It was the best school I ever attended. All that I later became interested in had it's start at this school. I attended from 55 to 59 and render many if the students by name. I'd love to hear more.

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  5. And by the way, I became excellent at math, and have spent my life in scientific research.

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    1. Your comment has shown me what I had only been vaguely aware of - all my main interests too originated there too. I suppose I will have to resign myself to being absolutely hopelessly thick re maths now, given your career - I'd long suspected that was the real truth. I wish we'd overlapped but I was not there until the '60s. I was very happy until the last couple of years when I did want more difficulty - I then went on to a very demanding school and got more than enough of that

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